As part of major spending cutbacks in 2012, the Stephen Harper government removed funding to a program that provides health care coverage to thousands of refugee claimants.
The move was challenged in court by several community groups.
Last July, the Federal Court finally ruled that the health care cut was unconstitutional, acknowledging that the practices put the lives and health of those awaiting their refugee-immigration status at risk.
And it set a November 4 deadline for the government to reinstate the program, leaving the conservatives no choice but to make last-minute concessions by restoring refugee health care status to avoid being found in contempt of court.
In respecting the Court’s ruling, the government grudgingly restored most of the benefits to the refugees – including temporary re-instatement of most health care services, including hospital, medical, laboratory services, pre-natal and post-natal care. Dental, eye-care and prosthetics will also be included as supplemental health care opportunities, along with home care, assisted living and psychological therapy for those deemed eligible.
“We are doing this because the court has ordered us to do it. We respect that decision while not agreeing with it,” said Chris Alexander, the Minister of Canadian Immigration.
Unfortunately, the temporary restoration of these “health care” benefits come with a list of exclusions and clauses, denying eligibility to protected persons, privately sponsored refugees, and listing conditional limitations depending on the applicant’s country of origin.
Since 2012, the cuts to refugee health care have been protested as xenophobic and racist for denying this basic human right of health, especially since the health care system Canada prides itself on was designed to service desperate and vulnerable people in need who don’t have alternatives. Yet the Conservative government bases these cuts on the fact that a fully restored health care program for refugees would cost approximately $400 million in taxes.
However, Harper’s government continues to fight the Federal Court ruling by making provisions to their Federal Budget Bill C-43, which would impose legal restrictions on health care for anyone who is not a permanent resident in Canada.